DSWD-12 launches ‘anti-epal’ poll campaign

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/15 February) — The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Region 12 has launched a massive awareness campaign to dissociate the national government’s flagship conditional cash transfer
program from the ongoing political exercises.

Gemma Rivera, DSWD-12 assistant director, said Friday they launched the “Bawal Ang Epal Dito” campaign to address misconceptions regarding the supposed control of politicians or some influential groups over the implementation of the anti-poverty initiative Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps.

She said they want to detach the program from any political activity, specifically those related with the upcoming May 13 local and national midterm elections.

“We received complaints that some of our beneficiaries were threatened by political candidates in their areas with supposed removal from the program if they will not vote for them,” she said in a statement.

Rivera, who is also the deputy program manager for 4Ps in the region, said they want their beneficiaries to understand and be more aware of how the program works and that no politicians were involved in the process.

DSWD-12 oversees the implementation of 4Ps in 1,190 barangays within 45 municipalities and five cities in Region 12 and a portion of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The program, which is one of the anchors of the national government’s three-pronged anti-poverty convergence strategy, currently serves nearly 200,000 households in Region 12 and in Marawi City in ARMM, which is an expansion area of the DSWD-12 for 4Ps.

Region 12, also known as the Soccsksargen Region, comprises the provinces of South Cotabato North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

4Ps is a poverty reduction and social development strategy of the national government that provides conditional cash grants to “poorest of the poor” households to improve their health, nutrition and education, particularly of children aged 0-14 years.

The program provides beneficiaries cash grants of P500 a month for health and nutrition expenses and P300 a month per child for educational expenses. A household with three qualified children could get P1,400 monthly.

Rivera said the campaign was inspired by Senate Bill 1967 filed by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago that seeks to prohibit public officials from claiming credit through signage announcing public works and other government projects.

The term “epal” is a street lingo for credit-grabber.

Also known as the “anti-epal bill,” the proposed law applies to politicians who claim success of government programs supposedly because of their personal efforts or by their use of personal funds.

“Our message is clear: No one has the right to delist a beneficiary. Only the DSWD regional and national offices are authorized to do so. DSWD has the sole right to delist beneficiaries if they will not comply with the program’s conditions,” Rivera said.

The official said that a nationwide launching will be done on March 30, to coincide with the start of the campaign period for candidates vying for various local positions. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)